ReBALANCE - Recycling Biomass to Agricultural LANd for Control of Eutrophication Natural Environment Research Council Bangor University ReBALAN:CE Home Page University of Stirling


Catalyst Grant:

This project will establish an interdisciplinary team with a core membership of both science providers and science users. The aim is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge relating to emerging research needs and opportunities linked to the recycling of excessive aquatic plant and algal biomass from eutrophic waters to agricultural land. Our strategic vision for this 6 month programme is to develop a research capacity to prioritize the most pressing challenges for exploiting nutrient re-use from aquatic plant and algal biomass via the remediation of anthropogenically impacted aquatic environments. Central to this is a cross-disciplinary understanding of the potential for multiple benefits and trade-offs linked to novel resource recovery from such an underexploited waste. Through a collaborative analysis of the current state of knowledge, our combined expertise will develop methods and work-packages targeted at addressing these high priority interdisciplinary research needs.

This project brings together a broad range of expertise to explore the opportunities and research gaps associated with the use of composted (and biochar end product) aquatic weed and algal biomass as a sustainable nutrient source for land application.

Our objectives are:

(1) To foster an integrated academic-policy-stakeholder community approach for exploring the risks and opportunities associated with aquatic plant and algal biomass recycling to agricultural land;
(2) To undertake a comprehensive and strategic critical review of academic and grey literature relating to the use of aquatic plant and algal biomass as a sustainable fertiliser source;
(3) To jointly devise, and deliver, a horizon scanning workshop to identify a research strategy for addressing key gaps in knowledge that further builds on the outputs from the strategic review;
(4) To recommend interdisciplinary research priorities in this area and draft of a collaborative funding proposal for an extended research programme.

Proposed Phase II

Using a whole-systems approach, this research project will combine detailed measurement and experimentation across a range of scales (from mesocosm to catchment) with novel socioeconomic analysis and modelling to characterise, quantify and evaluate opportunities & risks associated with resource recovery from aquatic plant biomass (APB). Thus, the overarching aim of this project is to quantify the multiple wider environmental & social benefits (and trade-offs) arising from harvesting APB across a range of eutrophic waterbody types,
i.e. from agricultural ditches to small lochs through to extensive wetlands, for the purposes of resource recovery.

The three major science objectives of the ReBALANCE (Phase II) project are:

Objective 1: to characterise the opportunities & risks associated with APB harvesting from eutrophic systems (at local to global scales) by considering ecological, environmental and social indicators;

Objective 2: to optimise nutrient recovery from APB via a combination of low- and high-tech processing & subsequent utilisation;

Objective 3: to develop a valuation framework for robust comparison of the cost-effectiveness of APB harvesting (combined with, and compared to, other options for catchment management for surface water remediation) that assesses both the monetary & non-monetary value of wider ecosystem service benefits.